When we went to eat dinner with the lovely family with a ministry of taking strangers into their home, the Ilgenfritz’s, I noticed several nativities around the house. I mentioned them to Joyce, and she told me that she had more of them than she could count. People have given them to her from all over the world. She has several from Peru, the Philippines, Africa, and numerous other countries. They are different shapes and sizes and made of various and sundry materials. Many are very cleverly made and could easily be overlooked as a nativity.
Joyce plays a game with her grandchildren at Christmas time and has the nativities hidden throughout the house and they try to find them all. They keep count of how many they find, and then tell her the total. I think the one who finds the most gets a prize.
I went over to her house later and took pictures of many of her nativities.
Here are some of them:
The pictures here show at least 39 different nativities. She has even more, but she didn’t set them all out this year. One picture I took of a nativity inside a bottle came out blurry, so I didn’t post it.
I think it is significant that Joyce collects nativities. I was thinking about this as I uploaded all of these pictures of the manger scene. She and her husband Morgan have a ministry called the Lighthouse. They have taken in 411 strangers and let them live with them. This is a special ministry that not many would be able to do. It’s certainly not my family’s calling!
They have taken in many unwed mothers and helped them learn how to take care of their babies. They have given a home to many troubled youths who have accepted Jesus and turned their lives around because of the love shown to them by this special family.
If Mary and Joseph had knocked on the door of the Lighthouse, Morgan and Joyce would not have turned them away. The story would have been a lot different, and I know that’s not how God planned it, but it struck me that they have taken in almost every stranger who ever knocked on their door. I’m sure that they will have a magnificent reward in heaven. They have lived out Matthew 25:35
“for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in;”
We met them during a time when we were strangers with no where to go to experience the comforts of home or the joys of the Christmas season. They graciously invited us in. They fed us a warm, home-cooked meal. They made us feel special and loved. At a moment’s notice, they changed their plans and fitted us in, even though we are a large crowd and not easy to accommodate. They even helped us get there since we didn’t have a vehicle large enough to get everybody there. They didn’t act like they were the least bit inconvenienced by any of this. On the contrary, they acted like they were happy to have us there and happy to do all of these things for us.
Joyce has called to check up on us since that night. She brought soup over to us one night. It was delicious. The Lord had her make it and she didn’t even know why. Then she thought of us and called to see if we wanted it.
When we needed a ladder, she and Morgan brought one over for us to borrow. She has called just to see how I’m doing. She lets me know that she’s praying for us. She knows that I’ve been carrying a heavy load, and I can feel her compassion as she speaks to me and when she hugs me.
They are living out the gospel. What an example they have been to us and to so many others. May we learn from them and be obedient to our Father as they have been and store up riches in heaven. They emphasize that they are just normal people and that all Christians are supposed to live the way they do. They’re right. But how many of us do? We’re not all called to open our homes the way they do, but we are all called to obey whatever our Father tells us to do. Their love for people, and their willingness to put themselves out for other people is inspiring.
I’m so glad that God put them in our lives and provided a place for us to celebrate the birth of the Savior even though the only room we had was in the inn (the Days Inn).
Our story is still being written. And this chapter has been very difficult and fraught with uncertainty and anxiety. The Lord has been trying to teach us to trust Him no matter what. We will keep taking this test over and over again until we pass it.
The Lord is gracious and faithful. Many of our experiences parallel the things that happened in our Lord’s life as He walked the earth. He did it perfectly, without sin. We are far from perfect. But He is perfecting us and conforming us to His image.
I believe this.
I see Jesus in the Ilgenfritzes. I see their example of love and self-sacrifice for the sake of strangers. I admire them and want to be like them.
The nativities that they have collected symbolize their willingness to give a home to strangers in the name of Jesus. This is the way that they serve Jesus by serving the least of these.
I know in my heart that if Mary and Joseph had knocked at the door of the Lighthouse, there would have been a room for them.